There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
⁓ Leonard Cohen / Anthem
I felt it again — that tightening in my chest, like a whole person’s weight suddenly heavy upon me.
“Hello again, my dear.” Grief gave me a rueful smile, from its throne within my heart.
It was just a little thing really — a snippet of a story, a snatch of conversation, a scene reimagined. But it hit me like a sledgehammer, and from the fissures came rushing forth all the emotions, memories, and thoughts connected to that one moment.
Before I got caught in my old, familiar patterns of thinking however, I remembered. My gaze fell on my journal and the fountain pen case just waiting on my desk. I gave myself some more time — letting careful breaths ground me as I let the storm blow through me.
Then I opened my journal, uncapped my fountain pen, and began to write.
Our Mental Health Is Foundational
Our mind’s well-being determines the ways we react, behave and interact emotionally, psychologically, and socially to each other and the world around us. It is both a factor and a state of health that influences how we cope with life stressors, realize our abilities and potential, learn and work effectively, and exist as members of society.
Mental health is more complex than the mere absence of mental illness. It is a dynamic state that exists continuously, tied to experiences that differ in impact from one individual to the next. Our degree of mental wellness is profoundly connected to how we uniquely perceive the same experience, which in turn affects our particular, subsequent reaction to it.
Maintaining Mental Health Has Its Own Rewards
Our mind’s wellness has far-reaching repercussions on several aspects of our overall health. Here are some of the beneficial effects of keeping our minds healthy. ⁓
Greater fortitude against life stressors ⁓
Given the appropriate mental and emotional state, problems can be perceived as challenges instead that can eventually be overcome. A more reliable and balanced state enables us to adopt healthier coping mechanisms.
A strengthened self-image ⁓
Our personal feelings directed inwardly influence our self-esteem. Confidence then becomes a direct reflection of our mental state. When we nurture our mental health, the focus shifts to our good qualities, which in turn will exert their influence in other aspects of our lives.
More meaningful social interactions ⁓
When our mental health is in good condition, we are more able and willing to share our ourselves with the people we care about. We become fully present and open with our affection, support, and quality time.
Improved quality of life ⁓
As our mental well-being flourishes, it casts ripples throughout other aspects of our lives. With a healthier sense of self, we are empowered towards greater participation with our community. These enriching experiences further sustain our mental health and allow us to contribute more to society.
We Possess The Tools For Self-Transformation
Expressive writing through journaling is one of the most accessible ways of nurturing our mental health. Most of us already have the requisite materials — fountain pen, inks, and bound paper. It is now a question of committing yourself to this self-care practice.
Aside from the outright rewards of writing by hand, here is a short list of how keeping a journal effectively fosters improved mental health. ⁓
Eases anxiety and depression ⁓
When we are beset with negative thoughts, there is a tendency to brood and ruminate. Organizing these intrusive and disruptive thoughts into written words lets us take a step back, break away from the cycle, and process our emotions without drowning in them. This also enables us to consider other perspectives or alternatives as we look more objectively at our train of thought.
Boosts immunity ⁓
Studies have shown that there are physiological benefits to keeping a mental health journal — lower blood pressure, improved lung and liver function, stronger immune system, and fewer stress-induced medical consultations. This supports the prominent role that mental well-being plays in overall wellness. Expressive writing enables us to develop a more coherent narrative of our lives, wherein we integrate our personal experiences to create a more holistic picture of ourselves and our place in the world.
Aids recovery from traumatic events ⁓
Giving yourself time to reflect on these events helps you process in a safe and judgement-free space. Recognizing and releasing all those emotions eventually helps with self-acceptance and taking the next steps towards healing.
Improves memory and recognition ⁓
Writing down your thoughts and emotions into a more coherent and organized form harnesses your mind’s attentive focus, which in turn fires up long-term memory pathways. Going back and reflecting on your insights enables you to see developing patterns such as triggers that result in specific feelings and subsequent behavior. This aspect of self-awareness can then help you discover healthier coping mechanisms for future episodes.
Encourages gratitude ⁓
Expressive writing and self-reflection allows us to record and witness how far we’ve come. This recognition of our unique journey from Point A to Point B transforms how we see ourselves and helps us acknowledge our own efforts and accomplishments. We also become more thankful for the experiences and people who’ve been instrumental in our personal growth.
Expressive Journaling Is My Own Medium
I cannot emphasize enough how writing everything down has been such a vital element in my own process of self-transformation. It was a confluence of factors that led me to discover how effective it was and still is for me — my love of words and writing, the enchantment of fountain pens and inks as creative tools, and my tendency towards introspection more than verbal expression.
The more I expressed myself through handwriting, the more I realized how beneficial it was for my mental health. I gradually realized that what was once an accessible way of easing my inner turmoil now became an essential practice for self-care, with tools that I love to use. Since then, my journals and pens are never far from my hand, always ready to accept my insights. My penmanship may still be the same (read: illegible when I’m emotional), but I’ve grown quite a lot since that first filled-up page.
Let us celebrate Mental Illness Awareness Week from October 2 to 8, 2022 by taking the time to start or renew caring for our own mental health, and releasing the stigma associated with mental illnesses.
"Self-care is how you take your power back."
⁓ Lalah Delia
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Written by @lekzumali
Check out her musings on Instagram!